One lamp in that shanty, cat piss house remained lit at night. Not at the first or second, but third switch. The very brightest. Not for the fear of tripping on a bump in the rug during a midnight, half conscious run to the bathroom. Or to give the petty snatchers riding their getaway bicycles the idea that somebody was wide awake and moping about the living room. The light stayed on so that the bulb would burn out quicker. Once it burned out and died, there was a reason to venture out of the house and buy another at the store. To be a part of commerce. To have a minor purpose and have an errand to run, like anybody would have.
But only incandescent bulbs. The older style of light bulbs. They don’t last as long as the energy efficient types. They have less life.
It was always the same lamp, too. A modest table lamp with a plaster-cast base made to look like bronze lion’s paws, and a middle body formed of plastic and colored like marble seen in showroom kitchen counters, or on television. That sweet appearance of marble that looked so authentic and hard and was probably cold like real marble, too. A hollow clink at the tap of a finger, though. Just some replication molded and wrapped around the fake bronze neck of the lamp’s body, bearing down upon those lion’s paws and rendering it unable to scamper away and escape a fate of sleeplessness at night, among other things. The lampshade was a transplant from another lamp gone years ago. Even decades. It doesn’t matter these days. It’s just a raggedy top covered in stains, the irregular outlines of which are reflected onto the walls every night. It’s a surprise that the stains do not transfer onto the walls, for they’ve shadowed the very same spots for so long. Saturations of years stored away in garages and basements. That’s from whence the smell of cat piss came. There are no cats in the house.
The lamp even remained lit during the daylight hours, but its shine was overtaken and dominated by greater entities. The Sun, for instance. The stains of the lampshade could not shine against the walls, and the Sun even reflected off of the fake bronze paws, and the marble, too. It almost made everything about the lamp genuine and respectable and new, with the exception of stealing away its own luminescence. It looked beautiful, but it wasn’t the truth. Its image was redeemed, but its soul and its purpose was taken away. Regardless, the bulb always burned slowly, recognized or not.
The death of a bulb was sudden. Never gradual. Usually a spark could be heard, but never seen, and the lamp went dark for however long it took to notice. Typically long enough so that it wasn’t too hot to unscrew and discard. Another bulb wasted. Not a book read below it, or a game of chess played under it. Its only point was to illuminate through that table lamp that was forever situated on top of one corner table in one corner of a house, beside a modest window that brought in the afternoon Sun.